By Milo Boublik
New York City, New York
After a number of key victories during the final weeks of the NBA’s regular season, including an impressive display of resilience against a star-studded Los Angeles Clippers team, the Knicks claimed the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference. Then, on Wednesday, the Knicks earned their first playoff victory since 2013 despite facing the red-hot Atlanta Hawks. With a new coach, several new players, and a new gritty mindset, the Knicks have become one of the premier teams in the NBA.
The Knicks’ recent success has caused Knicks fans all across the city to regain a sense of city pride for their resilient team. Knicks fans are not simply enamored by individual play, but rather the incredible camaraderie and togetherness of this team is what makes them so fun to root for. Earl Monroe, a former Knicks champion, described the team in a tweet: “This Knicks team makes me enjoy watching basketball again. Confidence and camaraderie personified.”
In addition to the camaraderie, the toughness of this team has played an equally important role in its success. SLAM magazine released an article titled, “Julius Randle and RJ Barrett are Bringing Toughness back to MSG.” This gritty, tenacious team is a Knicks team that is finally exemplifying the spirit of a city known for its unrelenting energy and toughness.
This spirit does not only touch the hearts of Knicks fans, but also it seems to rejuvenate the spirit of the entire city. Theo Pinson, a Knicks player known for his celebrations and support from the Knicks bench, described this in a tweet: “Riding through the city right now you can just feel the buzz and the excitement!!" Pinson, who does not get to play many minutes every game, perfectly exemplifies what it means to be a Knick this year. Despite his lack of playing time, he is unarguably the most energetic player in the arena every single night. After every made shot, he is celebrating with and energizing his teammates on the bench, and after every missed shot he is the first one to reinspire confidence in his teammates and encourage them to pick their heads up and continue to work.
Knicks Coach Tom Thibodeau, who emphasizes the importance of defense and hustle, has been instrumental in redefining the culture of the organization. After a win against the Grizzlies last Monday, Coach Tom Thibodeau said, “I like the toughness of the team. They persevered and just found a way." Also, Coach Thibodeau said, “The heart of the team has been special.” After years of losing seasons involving heartbreaking loss after heartbreaking loss, Knicks fans have finally been given the team that is willing to fight for them night in and night out.
The pride of Knicks fans also comes from knowing that this team has reestablished their city as one of the meccas of basketball and that star players will now consider them as an intriguing landing spot. As Marc Stein of the New York Times wrote, “There have been whispers for weeks that the Knicks' flirtation with the East's No. 4 seed has helped restore their reputation to the point that star players are finally prepared to consider them a destination franchise again.” The success of this team is not fleeting; this team’s redefining of what it means to be a Knick will have a lasting impact on the team and on the entire city.
After more than a year of COVID-19 turning “the city that never sleeps” into an apparent ghost town, this team has provided the city with exactly the kind of spark that it needs. This team has reminded the entire city of the kind of grit and passion that defines what it means to be a New Yorker, and it has played a key role in the rebirth of the spirit of New York.